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What Were Star Trek's Adorable Little Tribbles Made Of?

"Star Trek: The Original Series" warped its way onto television screens beginning in 1966, but Gene Roddenberry's optimistic look at mankind's future didn't truly find its orbit until after the show was canceled following its third season on NBC. Today, an entire "Star Trek" universe flourishes, and Trekkies can't saunter through a convention without bumping into any number of cosplayers sporting Romulan, Borg, and Starfleet garb. But for all of the franchise's iconic characters like Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner), and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), who would have thought those troublemaking Tribbles would have meant so much to fans?

The second year of "Star Trek" was, without question, the benchmark of the original series (per Rotten Tomatoes). The first "Star Trek" entry to feature the Tribbles came in Season 2, Episode 15, "The Trouble with Tribbles." With the exception of "Mirror, Mirror," which is unquestionably one of the most influential "Star Trek" tales of any generation, "The Trouble with Tribbles" is the highest-rated entry of Season 2 (via IMDb).

First-time writer David Gerrold introduced the Tribbles to viewers, and he went on to further explore the kindly but ravenous alien race in "Star Trek: The Animated Series" six years later. Since then, the Tribbles have shown up a handful of times, including appearances in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Star Trek Into Darkness." However, what's truly fascinating — thank you, Mr. Spock — is the way the Tribbles were fabricated for their small-screen debut.

The Tribbles were tiny stuffed pouches

Screenwriter David Gerrold's "The Trouble with Tribbles" shined a different light on extraterrestrial enemies than the Enterprise crew typically faced. "My original conception was, 'Aliens are always scary. What if they're cute, but we don't realize they're dangerous," Gerrold asked in an interview with Vanity Fair. However, creating those seemingly harmless fuzzballs was another animal altogether.

According to Vanity Fair, "[Tribbles] were merely sewn-up pouches of synthetic fur stuffed with foam rubber." Wah Ming Chang was the talented artist who designed those adorable monsters, and he also developed many of the iconic props and costumes from the show (per StarTrek.com). In addition to the foam-filled versions of the Tribbles, special effects artist James Rugg was tasked with bringing a select number of the fuzzy aliens to life.

Rugg retrofitted toy dogs with Tribble costuming to make some of them move about (per Hollywood Lost and Found), and he also utilized a squeeze bulb to simulate breathing. "Star Trek" star William Shatner also remembers some crew members tossing the Tribbles. "There was a guy in the [fly system] up there who [was] throwing Tribbles at me in one of the scenes," Shatner said in an interview on "The Rich Eisen Show." "I finally thought, 'Well, that's enough of that.' And then he hit me again with a Tribble, which made it funny." Shatner was right, as the Tribbles are remembered for their part in one of the funniest moments in "Star Trek" history.